Seven Cols Ex-Strava-ganza.

Keri Williams created it and a few of you have ridden it and now member Mike Kirby gives a great account of his recent 7 Cols ride, as well as his views on Strava.

I chased my first ever Strava segment last week. The ‘segment’ in question was the (in)famous 7 Cols ride, devised by the evil genius, our timekeeper in chief. More of which later.

I have resisted Strava up to now. To me, Strava was like taking with me, the things I want to leave behind when I go out to ride. Strava intrudes on the purity of the ride. I want to leave my phone on my desk, clear my mind and focus on something that is not work.

Like many of my generation, Strava is a bit like Spotify or Netflix, I need a teenager to show me how to use it and there isn’t always one available. It also adds considerably to my already extensive pre-ride faffing.

When I first started riding, I didn’t understand why on ‘group rides’, suddenly, all hell would break loose. Speeds would shoot up and riders would dash off the front, only to slow, red faced and blowing only a few hundred yards down the road. I am sure the responsible ride leaders who guide the Star riders around our wonderful countryside would have none of this of course, but, is every piece of road now a memorised Strava section, each KOM a small victory, each little symbol, a source for minor celebration?

But the real reason I am a Strava-Dodger (along with most forms of bike-based tech) was the incontrovertible evidence that I just wasn’t going anywhere near as fast on the road as I was in my head.

The 7 Cols ride was planned as a recce for Harry and I, ahead of a ‘proper go’ one day soon. However, Harry got a better offer and I decided to do it myself. I looked it up and fixed the route in my head, the one that starts and finishes in Shotteswell. I looked in awe at the list of the best times.

Still, it was only a recce! So I rode out to Shotteswell and proceeded to hurl myself down the first Col. Too fast! Locking up my back wheel. Slow down! It’s a recon! No need to chase this one. Is this the effect Strava has on people?

On to Warmington and Col 1. Sit and spin, feeling good. Conscious that this one is one of seven though. At the top of Edge Hill, a very large tractor, trundled down the hill, being pushed by an even larger trailer full of grain. I crept by and swished smoothly around the corner and left to Radway.

Sunrising Hill catches me out. It is longer and the last part steeper, than I remember. I thought back to the Tour, fresh in the memory, those climbs, just as steep as this, steeper, for kilometre after kilometre. How do they do that? I stand on the pedals and over the top. Right and then on to Christmas Corner, and right, down Tysoe Hill.

Next, my new favourite Col. The gentle, beautiful, welcoming, Lady Elizabeth. She draws you on and higher. Then, it’s down through Winderton. On the drops, huge grin, I love the long, swoopy right-hand bend after the village.

Compton Wynyates follows. I catch a glimpse of the big house, the low sun dappling the rusty brown stone-work, as I climb out of the saddle for the steep bit. This is starting to hurt. Beware people; Keri Williams knows how to design a challenge to catch those out who start too fast.

Back down Lady Elizabeth’s, just too much fun. Is it ok to shout C’MON at the top of my voice? Tysoe Hill next. Steep but mercifully short. The drag back towards Upton House has me working hard into the wind but with the respite of going down Sunrising, to come. Back through Radway and to the foot of The Knowle or Edge Hill as most know it.

You take no momentum into this one. The slice of Soreen, my new ride-food of choice is all gone. My legs are tired and my water bottle empty. I realise that by this time, the Strava record holder (Henry S) would not only have completed all 7 but be halfway home too. So, dig in, and let’s get this one done. It is the hardest part, right?

Err, wrong, the last bit up through Shotteswell is easily the hardest part. I felt like an ageing domestique, who, having emptied the tank, can only swing from side to side, hanging like a bat, hoping the legs will come back just enough to keep moving forward.

The 7 Cols is a work of art. It has the very best that Banburyshire has to offer. Hardly a bit of it does not offer a challenge and a lovely view. We are blessed to have such places to ride our bikes. Take it on, give it a go, it is enormous fun, tech or no tech.

A blog titled The Seven Cols – the creator explains was written by Keri Williams and published in March 2017 and can be found here: